Posts Tagged ‘Archery Summit’

Crashing OPC!

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Flying into Oregon from Las Vegas I immediately had a 35-40 degree drop in temperatures, not too shabby when you it’s 100+ degrees and Summer in the desert. It is always wonderful to be back in Oregon – it’s a different vibe compared to other states and I just feel comfortable and at home when I’m there.

I was picked up by a old wine buddy and we headed out to enjoy an early lunch at one of my favorite spots in the city, Bunk Sandwiches. This is not your average sandwich shop, they source some of the best ingredients available, bring in certain breads from Philly and embrace the farm to table credo. I went with my favorite sandwich they make, an Albacore Tuna melt w/pickles & hot peppers. Not only is this delicious, but fresh and the bracing spice of the peppers off-set the coolness of the tuna.

For my first evening in Oregon, we did a little home cooking with the assistance of Abusto’s Carneceria – enjoying their marinated Carne Asada, house-whipped sour cream, Pico de Gallo and spicy Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. We were fortunate to wash it down with some Victoria beers – one of Mexico’s finest that just started being imported to the States. Absolutely delicious! Following those were some homemade margaritas, then moving up to the Van Duzer 2010 Rose of Pinot Noir and a treat was brought by our friends; a bottle of Soter, 2002, Beacon Hill, Pinot Noir – this wine is just starting to come into its own and will definitely last for years to come. Rounding out the evening by the fire, we puffed on cigars and complemented them by snifters of a 1971 Armagnac.

Friday morning started with me getting a peek at the kick-off speech for Oregon Pinot Camp, being held at the Evergreen Aviation museum. Always cool having a chance to see some of the stars and veterans of the Oregon wine industry casual, yet focused and without a collection of people around them. I then had a chance to see a fellow OPC alumni, my friend Margaret who made the move from North Carolina, becoming the Director of Hospitality for Chehalem Winery. We bounced off to one of the newest addition’s in the Willamette Valley, the Red Hills Market a small gourmet coffee bar café featuring local flavors and produce – much needed in the Oregon wine country. I had the chance to enjoy my first Stumptown latte, which I knew wouldn’t be my last, fantastic with steamed soy milk.

I ran a few errands with Margaret, including stopping into Adelsheim Winery where I had the chance to taste the 2009 Caitlin’s Reserve Chard ($40) and the 2008 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir ($68), along with 4 other bottlings. These two were definitely my favorites, distinct in their own ways and in keeping with the house style.

Dinner that night was at my buddy Scott Cunningham’s new (3 month old) restaurant located in Downtown McMinnville, Community Plate. Scott has done a great job of making sure that all of the products used at CP are from within 100 miles of the restaurant and sustainable. You would be surprised how hard this is to accomplish – he’s very serious about his craft. Highlights of the night were definitely the Pork Nuggets, crisped to perfect crunch deliciousness and the house made Pickle Plate. Continuing the evening I headed to see another friend in the valley, over in Newberg – Tahmiene Momtazi of Maysara & Momtazi Vineyard, where they were hosting a traditional Persian BBQ for friends, family and OPC visitors. Even though I had already eaten, I was forced to have a full plate for dinner – in keeping with the wonderful hospitality of this Persian family.

After an early wake up, I headed over the Chehalem Mountain Range to go meet my buddy’s from Elk Cove Vineyards to play a round of golf at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. This course is a regular host to significant tournaments, including a yearly stop on the LPGA Tour; so let me tell you it was not easy! The course is primarily a forest setting that opens up to the plains that surround the club. Great day to be playing 18, it was a blast catching up with some old friends and making some new ones.

I then headed back to enjoy the OPC Kickoff Party that afternoon over at Sokol Blosser Winery, where over 250 ‘campers’ were plied by over 50 wineries red and white bottlings and culinary delights by a local caterer. This casual, walk-about gathering was a fantastic way for these newbies to begin immersing themselves into Oregon and the varied collection of wines. Personal favorites that I tasted that evening were two Rieslings by Brooks, Sokol Blosser Rose and Elk Cove Pinot Noir.

On Sunday morning, after having a quick latte (#2) with Tahmiene of Maysara, I caught up with Alex Sokol Blosser and we headed over to Penner-Ash to begin preparing for Day #1 of the OPC Soil Seminar. Basically, on the Penner-Ash property are two distinct soil types (Volcanic & Marine Sedimentary – rather rare in the Valley) and campers are walked through both areas, then tasted on a collection of wines representative of their appropriate soil type. I thought this was one of the best seminars I attended during my time at OPC three years ago and having the chance to setup with winemakers, growers and winery folks just further endeared Oregon to me.

That evening, the large format/vintage dinner was held at Domaine Serene – putting campers together with wineries who opened older bottlings for them to taste. Before the event, I donated my time to Panther Creek Winery, pouring with with my buddy Bill Hanson, their Director of Sales & Marketing and Assistant Winemaker. This was great, as it allowed me to interact with more campers, dialogue with people from around the country and get to know some of the wine folks better during the tasting. Dinner was all about the community and sharing, with large format bottles and older vintages being pulled out by every winery. My favorites were definitely the Elk Cove 1997 Roosevelt, Adelsheim 1999 Elizabeth’s and 1998 Belle Pente Murto Vineyard.

Monday I headed up to Portland for some meetings and a culinary tour around the city. First stop was to Lovejoy Bakery where I was able to enjoy a delicious Buttermilk Scone paired with a Stumptown latte (#3). This bakery is a staple in town, located in the heart of the Pearl District – an area of galleries, condos, small shops and very indicative of what Portland is all about. Moving on, I hit a few of Portland’s food trucks – most of which are based around parking lots, so they’re basically renting a fixed space and setting up shop there. My first delicious bites included a killer Reindeer Sausage topped with caramelized onions and a spiked garlic sauce, then topped with sauerkraut. Little heavier than I would have liked for lunch but the flavors were bursting out of the bun. I still wanted to have a little something, so with my ‘dining’ companion, we split an amazing Buffalo Burrito – 100% barley raised, with red cabbage slaw and a killer chipotle chili sauce. Now, THIS was eating!

Continuing the walk-about around Portland, we bounced to some shops and an interestingly, over-geeky coffee spot (Public Domain Coffee) before finding our way to Clyde Common, one of my favorite bars in the city. This is obviously not only a bar, but a great restaurant and we were in perfect time for Happy Hour, including watching the bartenders mix up the evening’s daily punch. After a brief stop to my hotel, I wanted to go check out a friend’s restaurant, Portland Prime and their amazing collection of small plates for happy hour. This stop was perfect, considering they had wine on tap (been dying to try some) and great flavors with generous portions.

By now, I know many of you would be stuffed, however I am a professional (ha!), so we kept going. My buddy picked us up and we went to explore Andy Richter’s Whiskey Soda Lounge for Mixology cocktails and the best wings I’ve ever eaten. No, I’m not kidding. These wings are done in a Thai style, with fish sauce and caramelized goodness – you have to go. Now.

And, even though I was now full, my buddy insisted on heading to dinner, popping into clarklewis for their 4-course, family style tasting menu! This restaurant is all about the farm to table experience and it did not disappoint – being able to enjoy pork belly in a fir sauce along with the daily ‘market-plate’ of vegetables, cheese and meats was awesome.

On my final full day in Oregon, I started off with a great Soy Latte from Stumptown (#4) and a very fresh Hazelnut Raspberry Scone before heading back down to the Willamette Valley. Upon arriving I was able to participate in a closing OPC session, the Dundee Hills Block Party; a tour through the vineyards of Sokol Blosser, Eyrie, Lange (Durant Vineyard), Domaine Drouhin & Archery Summit. Not only were we shown through each vineyard, we had the chance to taste a wine made from each specific block consummating with a lunch at Archery Summit, catered by Bunk Sandwiches, paired with older vintages from each winery. This event truly showcased the hospitality and community of Pinot Camp and Oregon wineries; once again I had to ask myself why I didn’t live here.

Wrapping up the day, I caught up with dear friends Scott and Courtney for a fantastically mellow end to my trip. We commandeered a friend’s house for a Copper River Salmon BBQ and Bake, complemented by fresh Margaritas and Sokol Blosser Rose of Pinot Noir. Dinner was held on the back patio of the house, looking directly at the vineyards and with a sunset not happening until 9:30pm. Complementing dinner were two delicious bottles a Cristom, 2001 Mt. Jefferson Cuvee and a Soter, 2005 Brut Rose. Life definitely did not suck.

After getting packed up and settled, I headed out of the valley and made my way to the Portland Airport – sad to be leaving one of my favorite places on earth but completely at peace with myself based on the experiences I had over the last 6 ½ days. I can’t wait to go back, experience more of Oregon, see friends, taste more fantastic food and enjoy more of their wonderful wines. In the mean time, I’ll just have to pop a cork on a great bottle of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and transport myself there.

Keep eating and drinking!

Let It Rain – Spring time in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Vancouver is a city that offers a different and refreshing taste of traditional and Asian Fusion inspired cuisine and a place that you can go and walk and meander about for a few days, but unfortunately sometimes in late May the chance of rain and chilly weather can be challenging. This was an eating trip, especially with the amount of rain and cold weather, but other than that and some limited wine selections at most restaurants, Vancouver should definitely be on your ‘eat list’ of places to visit. Our first stop is always lunch at Shanghai Chinese Bistro on Alberni Street for a bowl of Shrimp and Pork Hot and Sour Soup; not the typical American Chinese version, but made in a flavorful ‘Cloudy Broth’ and then onto to a large selection of Dim Sum. Although this particular restaurant has been in business for quite awhile, they are always updating the food and menu offerings to stay current to today’s tastes.
Granville Island is known by some as ‘Granola Island’ for its bohemian atmosphere and artistic colony businesses and residents. It also houses the city market where you can either get anything from the best selection of fresh fish, prime meats, fresh baked breads, fruit items from all around the world or also snack along the way at the plethora of quick service food stands. In good weather it’s great to buy some items and picnic – however when it rains, head straight for the Artisan Sake Maker, Masa Shiroki; he has the first boutique premium sake made in Canada. For a few dollars you can have a tasting selection and it will warm you up. Plus, it tastes delicious!
Bao Bei is a relatively new Asian Brasserie on the edge of China Town and has already become the darling of the trendy, local crowd. Featuring a small plates menu ranging in price from $9.00 to $15.00CAD, with local fish, tofu and vegetarian and of course Steamed Buns and Pork Belly too. The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, but definitely the food preparations are well thought out and polished.
Yaletown has multiplied from a small warehouse area just a few years ago into a bustling work-eat-live there environment. The anchor of the area is Urban Faire, a large bustling market with a selection of food items, take away prepared dishes, coffee and tea bar, made to order items and a vibe of guests that you typically don’t find in markets in the United States. They offer live music on certain days, along with a social get together, a great place to organize some food for a picnic or just hang out to sip some beverages and chat.
Maenam, a postage stamp size restaurant on Broadway, and is turning out some of the most interesting and bright tasting Thai food, starting with Cloudy Hot and Sour Soup of Wild Baja Prawns, which we asked to have the Fresh Spot Prawns as a substitution since they were the first of the Season. Then on to Green Mango salad, with Grilled Albacore Tuna, which was more of a mid-course, but entrée sized. Dry Curry of Crispy Lingcod and a bowl of Jasmine Rice, rounded out the experience. If I Iived in Vancouver this is the type of restaurant I could eat in once a week! After a great meal and a rainy day, a stop at Urban Tea Company on Alberni Street, seems in order. A wonderful and comfortable respite in the middle of the shopping district in Vancouver. The selection of teas and proper service makes you just relax and is a great place to wait out the daily rain storm.
No trip to Vancouver would be complete without a visit to Tojo’s restaurant for Japanese Cuisine. Hidekazu Tojo has been a fixture on the Japanese restaurant scene since the early 1970s and has had his own restaurant since 1988. He has served as the ambassador for not only his own restaurant but for Vancouver in the local scene and the international restaurant world. To fully understand his food, you should sit at the counter and let him prepare a tasting menu for you; he will tailor it to your tastes and also take into consideration your dietary restrictions, and get ready for an experience second to none. Tojo prides himself on constantly adjusting his menu to what is seasonally available, so the meal we experienced might not be available again, but each and every time I have dined with him, the experience fully exceeds my expectations.
I remember on our lunch visit to Shanghai Chinese Bistro seeing the fish tank chocked full of Dungeness Crabs, so for our last evening a revisit was in order. A two-kilo fresh crab was flashed in the wok with scallions and ginger – nothing more to say!
Portland and Willamette Valley Wine Country was next on the agenda. The first night a visit to one of our old haunts, Higgins’ was definitely in order. The bar was buzzing, even though there was a rain storm raging outside. To me this is a benchmark Pacific Northwest Restaurant; great local food selection, hard to beat wine list, and fair pricing, and attentive service and the professionalism of the service team. Housemade Charcuterie and Oregon Cheese selection, seasonal fish and vegetables and signature fruit desserts, a nice way to be welcomed back to Portland.
Being the next day was Sunday, there was only one real choice, we knew we were going to have Dim Sum at Fong Chong in Chinatown, a somewhat down trodden old place but hey, are you interested in the food or the atmosphere?! You can eat till your stuffed and if your bill is over $25.00 for two people, I would be very surprised!
The hills of Dundee were calling, so off we went for a day of wine tasting, great hospitality and conversation. Our first stop was Sokol Blosser Winery; the sun finally broke through so a tour of the vineyards was in order and they had a BBQ Lunch which they offer on various weekends and holidays, a few some tastings of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and the day was starting off just fine. Next was Archery Summit, they were tasting right in the wine cave and offering their premium wine selection, which I am told if you ask nicely, you can try too! No trip to Willamette Valley would be complete without visiting with Pam Walden at Daedalus Cellars; she has a small but very comfortable tasting room and offers some the best single vineyard Pinot Noir in Oregon.
Our last evening was an easy choice for dinner. Keeler Hospitality had recently opened a new restaurant, ‘Portland Prime.’ We had dined on great seafood most of the week, so a Prime Steak and big bottle of red wine were definitely in order – let’s just say we were not disappointed!